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Staff Photo by Jessica Cejnar
The main screen at the Skyline Drive-in Theater stares out over the theater parking lot on Wednesday. According to Randy Shull, who leased and operated the theater, the drive-in closed Aug. 16. It is scheduled to re-open in September.

Drive-in to open under new management

BARSTOW • Declining ticket sales and customer numbers caused the current operator of the Skyline Drive-in to close the theater’s doors, but the property owner says the drive-in will reopen under new management in mid-September.

Randy Shull, who has leased the theater from owner Larry Rodkey for four years, closed the drive-in on Aug. 16. The number of customers in 2008 had declined about 26 percent, he said. And this year, keeping the drive-in open cost him money, Shull said.

Even though the theater is currently closed, Shull says it will soon reopen. Rodkey, who also owns Sunset Drive-in in San Luis Obispo, was at Skyline Drive-in Wednesday showing the property to people interested in leasing it.
“I’m either going to re-lease it or open it myself,” Rodkey said.

According to Shull, before 2008, the drive-in could make about 1,100 ticket sales on a typical Saturday during the summer. Shull said 2007 saw a record year with 1,600 people visiting the theater a Saturday.  According to him, the only decent week the drive-in saw this year was when “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” opened.

Shull, who blames the admission decline on the recession, said about 70 percent of the drive-in’s business comes from Victor Valley. Now the theater sees less than half the business from Victor Valley, he said. According to Shull, the Barstow community is too small to support the drive-in on its own. It would take a town of about 50,000 people to do that, he said.

“I can’t survive on 300 people at one screen and 100 on (the other) screen,” Shull said. “I borrowed money last year to get through this mess. Now I still owe the money and I don’t have a business any more.”

Shull said during the summer his electric bill at the drive-in costs $1,400 a month and rent is $4,000 a month. Skyline Drive-in relies on money made during the summer to stay open during the winter, Shull said, because it doesn’t get the business from Victorville. In 2006 and 2007 the drive-in was closed for a month during the winter.

Last year, he said, he stayed open and lost between $6,000 and $7,000 in December. According to Shull, he expected this year to be worse than last year.

Shull, who also works at Napa Auto Parts, said he came from San Luis Obispo to manage the drive-in at Rodkey’s request. Business at Skyline Drive-in was poor during his first year as manager, he said, but took off during the second year. The second screen came up in 2000, Shull said, doubling the theater’s business.

“We never looked back until 2008,” he said, adding that work will be done to the theater’s screens and the drive-in will have a new paint job before it re-opens. “It’s a good little drive-in.”

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com


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